I have realized that my sojourn with the Pittsburgh Pirates has been one of the longest relationships in my life. Like most relationships, there are ups and downs, but this past winter almost saw it come to an end, but all that has changed.
I was among those who swore revenge after owner Bob “Don’t Touch My Money” Nutting and crew dismantled the Bucs this past off season by trading Garret Cole and Andrew McCutchen. The slow burn continued as Spring Training opened, but a long winter made me yearn for baseball.
I quickly realized it was a love/hate relationship. I love baseball and hate rooting for any other team than the Pirates. I mean, c’mon, I trudged through 20 losing seasons with those SOBs (Same Old Bucs). And then, like magic, it stopped. One day Andrew McCutchen pointed to the sky and it was over. It was magic and I was smitten.
How can I describe my giddiness as the Pirates began to make the playoffs? Granted, it was the wild card (sometimes referred to as the Pirate Invitational), but it was post season. Good times. Good times.
Despite the honeymoon atmosphere, there always seemed to be some nagging doubts. Good players rarely stayed. More importantly, good players rarely got picked up before the July 31 deadline. Off seasons were quiet, so much so that I began to wonder if I married a serial killer. This past off season made me think I did.
The lingering cold winter was nothing compared to the ice in my soul when they traded Garret Cole. In the blink of an eye, Andrew McCutchen was also gone. I had no choice but to file for a separation, but I couldn’t bring myself to actually divorce the team I’ve loved for so many years. We’ve been through a lot together. I couldn’t imagine facing a summer alone.
I deliberately didn’t go to opening day, which had been one of our favorite times together. It just didn’t seem right. The wound was still raw. They started wooing me back by getting off to an impressive start making me secretly watch them even though I didn’t want to. There was a mix of new and old names and for some reason it was jelling into the kind of team I could see myself with. Then the ugliness returned.
In early summer, the Pirates started to lose. They seemed to be in free fall. There was a part of me that had that “serves them right” attitude and I fully expected them to start the salary dump so they could “rebuild for the future.” I’ve heard that song and dance before. But this time was different.
They started to win again. In fact, they went on such a streak that instead of being sellers at the deadline they promised they would be buyers. I didn’t believe them. I’d been burned before by such talk. But they kept their promise.
No one in baseball expected the Pirates to do what they did. They strengthened the starting pitching and the bullpen as if they believed they were in contention for at least the wild card. Sure, they gave up some talent, but these moves gave everyone the signal they were not raising the white flag (again) instead of the Jolly Roger. It also gave the signal they were looking to the future.
Just when I was ready to move on, the grimacing one-eyed buccaneer I knew and loved over the years showed up at my door with a bouquet of flowers and a box of candy. It’s been a long time since I got flowers and candy. What’s a girl to do?
I guess the separation is over. I will be heading down to PNC Park later this month to watch them play the Cubs, cheering on my beloved, but it will be long process to heal the rift completely. I have to learn how to trust again and that takes time in any relationship. Still, this could be the turning point I’d been looking for.